Thursday, December 31, 2015


Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I had strep throat the first week of this long-awaited Christmas break and badly sprained my foot for the second week. I could cry. Oh wait, I have. I ruined our skiing plans. Trying to find a silver lining, my husband set me up to paint in the corner (it's dangerous to paint while the kids are all awake so I gotta be out of the way) since I need to just be sitting here with my foot up anyway. 
I had the sky done and my outlines sketched in for this one, but have been rather frustrated with the "progress" I've made: 
I know it's nowhere near done but it just looks like there's no hope for it. Sometimes I'm sure I've forgotten how to paint. No clue what to do with what was supposed to be a cool, chill foreground and the hills are just blah.
In frustration, I watched some watercolor videos on YouTube and then started this one with a real devil-may-care attitude (didn't even draw outlines for that particular bridge, even knowing that it would probably ruin the whole thing). I felt like I didn't need a successful painting. Just a part I liked enough to boost my mood a bit, and remind me I can paint: 
I think it's working. I'm just feeling a severe lack of patience. Stupid foot.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Nature's Spiral complete

Somehow I naively thought that I'd just take a few minutes tonight and finish this up! Why haven't I learned yet that finishing ALWAYS takes longer than expected. There are always a few more touches, a few more problems to fix, a few more patches to overdo. And before I knew it, my husband was snoring on the couch, where he'd fallen asleep waiting for me to finish so we could start our in-home date night. Oops! I'll have to make up for that tomorrow!  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Nature's spiral

I did it! Painted two nights in a row. Which doesn't sound like much, but these days it really is. 
So on with the sweetly-spiraled rose. My biggest challenge here is to not overdo it! These delicate roses seem to demand such finesse - a lot more than me and my clumsy big feet typically have. Fortunately, I don't have to paint with my gigantic feet. On the light parts of the rose, just the tiniest touch of color is needed. But it is needed. And then in the depths of the flower, I need that color to both deepen and glow. I got an early start tonight and thought I might be able to finish but that was me being totally overly optimistic. Maybe tomorrow? And maybe tomorrow morning when we're house hunting yet again, we'll finally find a house that works for us! 

Little rusty

Moving cross-country threw off my painting rhythm a bit, but every so often I've been making a little bit of progress on this landscape. It's from a photo I took while on a mountain bike ride in Bend, Oregon. The way the clouds were sweeping in majestically over the distant trees stopped me in my tracks, literally. Took me forever to catch back up to my group! I first did the blue sky, and loved it. Then one night I timidly approached the clouds - totally intimidated. I'd never attempted any significant cloud form before, especially not one that should be the focus point of the painting! After sleeping on it, I loved them too. But the trees and other greenery has been a struggle - ironic since that's usually my strong point. And the reflection has been a disaster. I can't seem to keep the style in with ripples. Here's what I have:
That's after a night solely focused on fixing the water. Not having any idea how to improve it (or hope really), what do you think of cropping the image to this:
Not only does it cut off the offending part, it brings the clouds back into the spotlight I think. Might need to slightly darken that row of shrubs too to help that. Maybe I shouldn't have tried such a difficult painting after so much time off :) but it was so inspiring to me. After being frustrated though, I went back to my sure-fire painting block fix: a flower. Somehow, making them shine always comes easy when nothing else does with a brush or without. After this decent start, I might actually be able to get some sleep now:
Now if I could get myself to paint two nights in a row, I might get somewhere!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Watercolor workshop

This last weekend I had the opportunity to teach a workshop to the Watercolor Society of Grand Forks, ND. They were the most experienced group I've ever taught, which was intimidating at first, but turned out to be lots of fun! It was two days long, and on the first days we did florals. We all did the same lily in the morning and a floral of their choice in the afternoon. My demo mostly showed how I paint my flowers wet-into-wet but just wetting a petal at a time and dropping in lots of bold, strong color. I add layers where needed, but try to get the strength of color in all at once so that I don't end up covering up the cool effects that the paint makes on it's own. Love letting watercolor be watercolor!
The second day we painted a landscape and then spent the remaining time touching up the three paintings we'd started. In my demo on landscapes I showed how I try to paint shapes that are similar value areas. Something that a lot of my students commented on was the small white line I often leave between my areas to keep them from bleeding together when I don't want to wait for them to dry fully. One student mentioned how this could be useful in plein air painting. I hadn't thought of that! Glad she found a use for a technique I use. Here's the demo I did that day:
Overall it was a great experience that forced me outside my comfort zone and helped me learn more how to explain what I'm doing and why, which made me think about both in the first place!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Commission complete!

Commissions are such a mixed bag of emotions! It's great knowing that there is a paycheck at the end and it's fantastic knowing there's somebody who's going to love the painting but it's so worrisome that that very person who it's intended for, won't. Especially in this case. A friend asked me to paint a very conceptual painting for her with birds representing her living kids and hollow birds representing the ones she miscarried. So clearly it means a lot to her. And she had an image in her head. Wanting it to be predominantly black and white, with a tree, but not too cold. The first birds I drew for her in a preliminary sketch looked kinda ... evil. Back to the drawing board. Literally. And I was afraid of the tree looking dead or barren. But the tree turned out to be the easiest part because I've painted plenty of trees. Birds, not so much. And I wanted to give each one it's own flair, representing the different personalities of her kids. I'm finally happy with it, although I cannot for the life of me get a good picture. Hope she likes it too.
Here are some details that actually show some of the variation I can't get the camera to pick up further out: 

Cross your fingers!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Summer Art Camps 2015

Can't wait to have fun with all the new projects we'll be doing this year. So excited! I love sharing what I love with kids!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Frozen Solid

I think she's done! I've wrestled with the trees a bit. Then I went and lightened the sky so that the horizon stood out more and so that you could better see the holes in the trees that the little birdies can fly through. Another artist told me once that you have to make sure and leave holes in your trees for the little birdies to fly through and I always think of it now when I can see sky through the branches! But it sure does help them look more real and less Charlie Brown Christmas tree-esque. My biggest complaint is probably how the cloud trails direct your eye to the upper right corner. Do they make it go right off the page? Or is it a nice mirror of the tree line?
By the way, this was at a rest stop/viewing point in South Dakota. First time I'd seen a whole lake frozen over!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Frozen Solitude

I love looking out on lakes that are completely frozen over. The subtle patterns on the ice are so dreamlike. Hard to portray though, especially from a distance. I really wasn't sure what to do with the sky since the photo was rather blah. I like the wispy feel of it, although the composition is bugging me. Particularly the two dark purple, partial shape-shadows that both disappear equally off the left side. In the photo the sky is quite light with such slight variations in the wintery, overcast sky. As I've tried to release myself from the need to portray things exactly as they are, I always feel this tug between creativity and reality. Like they're an angel and a devil on my shoulder. One says it'll look better if I do this while the other says, but the photo says it's supposed to be that way. So hard to know which to follow sometimes. And who will win. 
To make matters worse, I'm still not sure if I am creative enough to come up with something that will truly improve what was already there.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Lonely Stand

I like the horse more this after a night's sleep. Yay for sleep! Then I went and got a little carried away with the grassy foreground. It's just so hard not to - I get lost in the different shades blowing around and the movement...I don't know how to portray it without the detail yet. So I might've lost the style I was going for a bit but I do think it still works. It's that bottom triangle area that might cause me to lose some sleep. I don't think it works and I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. I'm tempted to make it the side of a river but I feel like that would mess with the uphill slant of the terrain. Maybe just add more stray grass or brownify the dirt a bit. Not sure...

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Hills are Alive

New painting...what's it's name...not really sure...hmmm...
It started out rather quickly once I was finally able to pick a picture to work from and rearrange the composition a bit in hopes that the tree and horse would balance the landscape. I like the sketchy feel of the grass, the sky and the light on the tree. The foreground clearly needs a bit of work. Like I'm not totally sure what to do... In the picture that's the gravely side of the road. Less picturesque than I'd like it to.
And then I spent the whole evening painting the horse. She kinda looks to me like she wants to catch a ride. And like she got her knees dirty. Is she too splotchy?
And what to call the painting...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Where the Wild Mustangs Roam

The Mustangs arrived! What do you think? In the photo they were all in a line so I staggered them, bringing that middle one forward, to add more interest. It's the first time I've painted horses so it was a little intimidating to attempt to do justice to such beautiful creatures. Are they too off center though? Compositionally I do really like how the foal turns the viewer's eye back into the picture, toward the middle mustang. I think I like them though. Makes me want to go back and get more pictures of those beautiful wild mustangs in the National Park!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pesky Backgrounds

I've been avoiding painting that lively badlands background. It's part of what makes the scene so cool, but how to have the most detail in the background? That just doesn't work. I started out stressing about getting too detailed but worried that if I didn't, you wouldn't have a hint of the cool terrain. As I finished filling it in, I realized the bigger problem was there was no depth so I glazed over it in a whitish-blue to give it some atmospheric perspective. But that washed it out way too much so I went back in to strengthen some of the shadows. I think I'm happy with it! Now back to the foreground. And the middle ground. Oh, not to mention I've never painted horses before so that could be a nerve-wracking finishing touch!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Can't ruin something you hate, right?

Over a year ago I painted these tulips (the blue was brighter in real life):
But I never liked them. The blue bugged me. It competed in intensity with everything else. If it had been scanned in black and white, there would hardly have been a difference at all. Plus, my favorite part was always the greenery and it just kinda blended in with the background. Made it a whole lot less interesting. I always wanted to change it but was certain that if I lightened it, if ruin it. So the only other option was dark. I wanted to make it dark dark at the bottom, but ideally it would've been nice if the bright blue could've stayed by the tulips. That failed so I had to go dark everywhere. I like it better although it does make the tulips look clunkier. Might have been a mistake but it's too late now!
Then I finally got back to my wild mustangs landscape. I really like where it wraps around the bottom. Not as sure about the dottiness in the middle. Looking forward to painting again tomorrow!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Where the Wild Mustangs Roam WIP

I think I'm off to a good start for once! I like the sky and think that this composition is going to lend itself more to keeping the foreground loose enough to match the style. I'll just have to keep reminding myself to not get carried away in the details. Also, is it just me or does anyone else crave chocolate while painting?

North Dakota Traffic Jam Finished!

So many bison behinds to paint! And so hard to give those huge, dark masses some definition so they don't just look like huge, dark masses. 
Wow. Ok, so the lighting on these two pictures is way different. I think this second one is closer to reality. But the main difference between them is I fixed the trees! I've redone them or at least their highlights at least half a dozen times. However, I think I might have overdone it on the details. I'm worried it all ends up a bit spotty. Do you think it's done?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

North Dakota traffic jam commencing

I like the addition of the bison. They just took so dang long! At first I made the one in front way too small. Had to add to his fro a bit. Still is probably a tad small. And who would think that it would take so dang long to paint a buffalo's behind? Hopefully I'll get an earlier start tomorrow (I had to plan my sons preschool class before I could start painting) and get the rest of the bison in there. Oh and I did lighten the sagebrush a bit but I'm going to have to do something about those blobs that are supposed to be trees. And possibly the shadows on the road. They look a bit too much like stiff kelp.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cluttered traffic jam WIP

Hard going tonight. Some of the shadows are good but I think I've overdone it and lost sight a bit of the blocks-of-color style I was going for. And you can't tell the trees from the brush. Have I lived in North Dakota so long that I've forgotten how to paint trees ;) 
Tomorrow I think I'll glaze over some areas to connect them more and add the bison. Then I'll see about fixing those poor trees.

Monday, March 23, 2015

North Dakota Traffic Jam WIP

I love painting with watercolors. Historically it's such an under-appreciated medium - never being taken as seriously as oil and acrylic. Today it still sells for less, although that is partially because modern tastes prefer to not have glass separating them from their artwork. And I get that. Unless you get the super-expensive, high-quality museum glass, there are annoying glares and reflections with glass. But watercolor is so much lighter. It's got soul. And it is so much more fun to paint with! That said, ever year or so I decide I should try to get back into acrylics and buy some canvases on sale and then forget that I did that and so a year later, I buy some more. I have a collection! Since I'm going to have to frame 10+ paintings, which includes mats, glass, and frames when it comes to watercolors, I was trying to figure out a way to save a little money. Long story short (too late), using up some of those canvases that don't even need to be framed would do the trick. If only I knew how to paint with acrylics...
And yet, I am just that ambitious, cheap, and overly-confident that I'll give it a try despite being on a tight deadline. Not the smartest move when I don't have any time for flops but here goes! This is what I've got so far:

Day 1: The Sky
Day 2: The Background
Day 3: Filling in
It's a scene from the North Dakota Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is basically down the road from us. My 3-year old daughter thinks it's "boodiful." My son just wants to know why there aren't any buffalo yet. I love my critique group!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pink Cascade

So I went with the dark background. Not 100% sure about it. I've never done a background so dark but I was hoping it would help the flower pop even more. The background scenery in the photo would've just distracted and I wanted this prima donna to be the star of the show. But it changed the feel a bit so I'm not sure if it worked. Hmmm...
I have a confession to make. I LOVE the movie Notting Hill. Now I know that probably sounds totally random but there's this scene where he's asking his friends if he made a good decision when he rejected the famous actress. And they all support him with fabulous lines like "Absolutely. All actresses are mad as snakes." I feel like I need my group of friends hanging out in an empty restaurant to tell me if I've made a good decision or if I messed up finishing this one. My husband's snoring on the couch though so instead I'm just quoting the lines to a marginally relevant movie to myself when I really should be sleeping. I guess I'll have to wait until morning. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pretty, Pretty Pink

1st night:
I nearly stopped after the first four petals I hated it so much. I don't know how to work with pink having never really don't so before. I love oranges, reds, and yellows but pink kinda isn't me. Maybe it's because I have four daughters running around in pink tutus and tiaras everyday, but it just doesn't seem serious somehow. So I had no clue how to do shadows and depth with this new pink tube of paint. Intimidating. 
2nd night:
After glancing at it throughout the next day, I decided it wasn't so bad after all. I liked the cascade of colors, how they kinda drip into the next layer. Only problem was I didn't get around to painting until nearly 10 PM so I had to stop after less than an hour because I'm trying really hard to be better about getting enough sleep. However, then I lay in bed thinking because I'd left just as I really got going. Boo.
3rd night:
I couldn't make the same mistake so I kept pushing through way past when I should've gone to bed. And I really should've gone to bed. Not only am I exhausted, this was crazy difficult to paint! I'd been scared of the middle. There's so much tiny detail in there, and it's so different than the rest, and it's where the eye is going to go! And there's so much less color there yet there needs to be definition. I went back to hating it again. Reminded me of a student I had once that said her paintings go through like 10 different stages of ugly before she's done. Ha! This was a serious struggle. I was certain I was ruining it. There's more defining to do, while still walking that ever-constant battle of balance to not over-work it. My plan all along is just to have a deep, dark purplish background. I think that's still what I'll do. I wasn't sure if I was going to leave the white lines between the petals - I often blur those out but I think it adds to the stylistic feel. My husband really loves it. One more night of painting and it should be done. Fingers crossed that I don't ruin it! ;)

Sunday, March 15, 2015


I had to finally just stand up and tell myself I was done. It's so hard to know when to stop! So I taped it to the family room wall and spent the rest of the day staring at it while I went about doing everything else. After a few hours, I had decided on two things that needed fixing - the top of the stem needed to be lighter so that it didn't get lost into the deep dark shadow next to it, and the blurry edge of a flower in the bottom left needed to be orange instead of white. I was hoping that second change would help balance the painting better. I'm still not positive that I didn't totally butcher some composition rule by putting that cut-off section in the painting, but I do think it's much better now. Despite being a more exciting color, I think it demands less attention and sends your eye back over to the real star of the show. Hope you agree!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

More progress

I thought the red flower was difficult but turns out the white one is so much worse! Seriously, there is so little color in it. How on earth am I suppose to give it depth or anything? Oi. And then what to do with the background? I decided to let watercolor do what watercolor does best and blur the background, leaving the focus on the flowers. It's interesting but not distracting I hope? I'm not sure. There's a lot going on. Too much? But I do like the contrast in colors at the very least. However, I do hate the little blurry edge of another flower in the bottom left. It's so bad. I thought it would help balance but it just looks sloppy. And the white flower's stem ... I don't know. Time to sleep on it and see what I can do tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


It's coming. Slowly. I was determined to get color in all around the flower so I had to throw some in quickly. The middle is the real problem - it's darn tricky. There's so much detail but I'm trying to keep it from getting too tight. Delicate balance. I'm a bit too obsessive for my own good when it comes to detail. I have to work hard to hold myself back from overworking it. Luckily it's time for bed so I had to stop!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kinda blurry

Sometimes it's really hard to start a new painting. You go from the finishing touches of a nearly complete painting to a totally blank canvas. It's hard to jump back to square one. Like when you finish a book you had really got into, and find it hard to crack the cover on the next one. So I tend to drag my feet a bit and obsess a bit more when picking out which image I'll go with next. Like somehow there's a wrong choice. Or that I have to pick the absolute best photograph I have or I'll be doomed to fail before I even begin. Ha! I have issues. Anyway, last night after sorting through images and stressing about sizes and whatever else I could think of, I got this far on the painting:
I sat down to draw it, drew 4 big circles and started painting. I didn't have the patience to draw it. Kinda crazy, eh? If I don't have the patience to draw it, what makes me think I'll be able to paint it? Or should? 
But tonight I got started a little bit earlier and made some good progress. I am painting from a slightly blurry picture though, which I told my husband would make my eyes go a little crazy by the end, and I was right! Trying to add depth and see all those layers started to play tricks on me. So my brain is a bit cock-eyed but I think it's going decently.
Looking forward to painting again tomorrow!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Peaches and Cream

This color rose just makes me think of peaches and cream for some reason. Yummmm. Now I'm hungry. But that aside, I'm finally painting again! I got a pretty exciting phone call this week. I was chosen by the mayor of Grand Forks, North Dakota to be their next Mayor's Choice artist. Here's a link to the program. I'm super excited! And I have about a month to get as many paintings done as I can. So here goes. I finished this old one tonight that I had started years ago. Thought it was about time I got around to it. What do you think? Is it done? I'm not sure yet, so it's taped to the wall for me to scrutinize for the next few days.